Mavericks with plenty to play for even with seed all but set

Mavericks
Mavericks
DALLAS (AP) -- Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have likely played the last game that matters for their seeding in the Western Conference playoffs.
 
Just don't take that to mean the last five regular-season games are pointless.
 
Dallas is trying to get healthy, and will be figuring out rotations without Chandler Parsons and Rajon Rondo if those two can't return soon from knee injuries. The Mavericks have just two wins in eight games and had a losing record in March.
 
Not exactly the best way to enter the postseason looking for the first series win since the franchise won its first championship in 2011.
 
"I've been around this league for a long, long time and you've just got to keep working," said Nowitzki, the 7-foot German in his 17th season. "But we'll definitely need a home win."
 
That chance comes Wednesday night against Phoenix after a three-day break between games, a rarity the Mavericks really needed. Parsons is out with right knee swelling after trying to play through an injury sustained a little more than a week ago at Indiana, and Rondo left Saturday's loss to Golden State with a hyperextended left knee.

The only good news is that Rondo didn't injure the right knee. He missed large parts of two seasons in Boston because of a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. He came to Dallas in a trade with the Celtics in December.

Neither player practiced Monday, and coach Rick Carlisle sounded more optimistic about Rondo playing against the Suns than Parsons, who had a big part in a win over Oklahoma City the game after getting hurt but came out early in the second half a night later in a loss to Houston.
 
Richard Jefferson, who started in place of Parsons against the Warriors, missed practice with a jammed toe.
 
"We've got to make the best of whatever the situation is," Carlisle said. "We want to win games. We've got to follow the process to put ourselves in a position to do that. Part of the process is the healing of guys that are injured, and part of it is to continue to work to get better as a team with the guys that are available."
 
If New Orleans loses to NBA-leading Golden State and San Antonio beats Oklahoma City on Tuesday night, the Mavericks will be locked in as the seventh seed. That's one spot better than last season, when they took the top-seeded Spurs to seven games before losing in the first round.
 
The No. 7 spot also means Dallas could reach the conference finals before having to worry about the Warriors, who swept the Mavericks in a four-game series for the first time since 1996-97 and have a seven-game winning streak against Dallas that's their longest in 21 years.
 
"My biggest concern is playing the right way," center Tyson Chandler said. "If we're playing the right way, the right type of basketball, going into the playoffs, I feel like we're a dangerous team. If we're not playing, I don't care if we're the No. 3 seed, it don't matter. You're going to make an early exit anyway."
 
The problem for the Mavericks is having everyone available at the same time so they can gauge themselves. Nowitzki is the only player in the top eight of the rotation who hasn't been injured since the latest tweak to the roster -- the addition of Amare Stoudemire in February.
 
Each time Dallas thinks it's going to get a preview of how things might look in the playoffs, someone gets hurt.
 
"As a seventh seed, you don't have home court so you've got to start two on the road," Nowitzki said. "We definitely need all weapons on board if we want to steal one game on the road, that's for sure."
 
Meantime, the Mavericks would just like to win a few going into the postseason.

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